ST. LOUIS — The postseason picture came into clearer focus Wednesday for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals will meet the Atlanta Braves at 4:07 p.m. Friday at Turner Field in the National League wild-card game.
The winner will meet the Washington Nationals in the best-of-five Division Series. The Nationals clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a 5-1 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
If the Cardinals defeat Atlanta, they will return to Busch Stadium for Games 1 and 2 of the Division Series against Washington on Sunday and Monday at times to be announced.
The Nationals would host Game 3 on Wednesday, and if necessary, Games 4 and 5 on Thursday and Friday.
The Cardinals confirmed early Wednesday morning that they will pitch Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) against Atlanta. The Braves will turn to Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA), who is 9-0 since being inserted into the rotation July 31.
"Kyle's had a terrific season for us," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's a good club (the Braves). In my mind, we've got a Cy Young candidate going on the mound for us, a guy who's been as consistent as you could ever ask any starter to be.
"I'm very excited about getting him on the mound to face anybody."
The Cardinals were 1-5 against the Braves this season. Lohse had a no-decision in his lone start against Atlanta on May 30, allowing five earned runs on nine hits in five innings of the Braves' 10-7 win.
St. Louis was 4-5 against Washington.
The Cardinals and Braves have met in the postseason three times.
In 2000, the Cardinals swept Atlanta 3-0 in the Division Series. In 1996, the Braves overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NL Championship Series and won 4-3. In 1982, the Cardinals swept the Braves in the NLCS 3-0.
After the Cardinals lost to Cincinnati 3-1 on Tuesday night, Matheny told his players to go home and get some rest.
Instead, the players hung around and watched San Francisco hold off the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3. The Dodgers were the only remaining team with a chance to reach the playoffs, but the loss eliminated them from contention.
"They don't listen well," Matheny said of his players. "I was hoping they would go home and really get locked in on the game (Wednesday). Even a couple of them who went home came back as the (Giants-Dodgers) game got close to the end. I think they realized how special this is."
The celebration wasn't as long or raucous as in years past, but it marked the accomplishment of a team that's been living on the edge.
"You can't take these (moments) for granted," Matheny said. "We were talking about (the celebration) being kind of subdued, and it was. But they're still proud and have every right to be. ... They enjoyed the moment. After 161 games and going through a lot of ups and downs, it was perfect."
First baseman Allen Craig called the celebration "really exciting."
"We had a good time," he said. "It was a good celebration. I think going into it, we weren't sure how things were going to go down, necessarily. But I think sometimes the best emotions come out when things aren't planned.
"At the end of the day, we're in the playoffs and we have a chance to get back in the World Series, and that's all you can really ask for. So we're excited about that."
Just two hours earlier, the Cardinals' clubhouse was silent.
"It's definitely a little weird to lose a game and then be so happy later on in the evening," Craig said. "But that's the way it goes. We were definitely excited the Giants won that game.
"I just think it was cool that we weren't sure how everything was going to go down. A lot of really cool emotions came out."
East St. Louisan and two-time Olympian Dawn Harper, of East St. Louis, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Matt Holliday. The Cardinals gave Harper a jersey with the number 12.37, signifying her silver medal-winning time in the 100-meter hurdles this summer in the London Olympics. ... Matheny rested all of his regulars, except for Pete Kozma, in the regular-season finale. The outfield, left to right, was Adron Chambers, Shane Robinson and Skip Schumaker. The infield, third to first, was Matt Carpenter, Kozma, Ryan Jackson and Bryan Anderson. Tony Cruz caught Shelby Miller. "It gives our fans an opportunity to see some players they haven't seen," Matheny said.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.